This is a guest post by James Harrison of HotelTCS. He covers topics concerning Technology in the Hospitality Industry. Looking at subjects such as IPTV, HSIA, WiFi, GPON and IoT, he gives you the insider info on Smart Hotels and Intelligent Hotel Deployments.
For those of us lucky enough to be connected to the World Wide Web (not to be confused with the Internet) in the pre-Google era, we remember the myriad of search options available to us. Some of those aimed to be everything all in one place. A hub if you will. Altavista anyone? The front page of the Web almost. A comment now associated mostly with Reddit.
In 1998 two Stanford University students set out to change the face of search engines for good. They made such an impact however, the ended up inventing a new verb. “To Google” is now synonymous with the act of using a search engine to trawl the web for data. Interesting.
Anyway, I digress. Google is not the focus of the piece. From 1996 until the Googleplex began to dominate, there was a search engine that many, including me, had a soft spot for. That search engine was the admirable Ask Jeeves.
You Rang M’Lord?
Like The Admirable Crichton (not to be confused with Kryten for any Red Dwarf fans out there), Ask Jeeves was built on the premise of service and the class system. A strange idea if we reflect on it almost a quarter of a century later.
Unfortunately for Ask Jeeves, he did not rise to the top in the way of Crichton to become “The Guv”. No, his peers actually overpowered him during the struggle to the top.
So, you may ask, why, on a blog about Hotel Technology, I am talking about Ask Jeeves? Well, like the changes in our search behaviour over the years, the world of Hotel Technology has moved on too. Not only the technology though, oh no, our expectation as guests has as well. Welcome to the world of the Digital Concierge.
Serving Before the Bell
Not quite the early 1990’s Teen show of a similar name, Ask Jeeves was actually the first attempt at a digital concierge. I think though, he was stood in place, tea tray in hand, and white towel over his arm, a few years too early.
While he ended up as only a search engine, he really wanted to be more than that. The idea of bringing answers, and content, based on questions strings rather than just keywords. Instead of bringing freshly brewed tea, he would serve webpages.
Now, in 2020 the idea of a digital Concierge is nothing revolutionary. Our Butler has gone digital. In fact, he hasn’t gone digital per se. I’m happy to say, he’s had an upgrade. Like Kryten of Red Dwarf fame, he now uses AI (Artificial Intelligence). Something Jeeves didn’t have.
I’d actually go as far as to say he’s finally got that well-deserved promotion. A full team at his disposal, using AI. A team ready to serve. That includes adding to his team a pre-stay chatbot. His best buddy.
Only 2 days before I wrote this article, I was posed a question as part of a LinkedIn Live broadcast on FunnelTV. The question was as follows:
“Would you be happy if your entire pre-stay communications and questions were handled by a bot?”
Between the 5 guests and presenters who took part, we had some interesting answers. All positive, some lengthy, but I’m proud to say none as succinct as mine. My answer was:
As a typical Millennial, I crave exceptional experiences. Rather cliché in the hospitality world I know, but it’s true. Enabling those experiences is key, and to enable them, I must be furnished with information. Information that allows me to make fast decisions, and incorporate as much into my Blesuire travel as possible (and write about it where I can as well!).
This is where the pre-stay chatbot comes in. The clever use of AI brings multiple “Jeeves” to my fingertips. Jeeves who has the answers for me, ready whenever I need them. The key here, and revolutionary point, is pre-stay.
Dial 0 for Concierge
A typical sign in hotels for sure. Something in the past I have used. Not something I am a fan of though. This is 2020, I don’t want to sit in a phone queue (amazing as I’m British, and we are known for our love of queueing!). No, in this Instagram world of instant gratification I need my answers now. The thing is, most likely when I need my answers, I can’t dial 0 for the concierge. You see, I want my answers before I book!
I’m a fickle millennial. While I have some brand loyalty, I hark back to what I said earlier. I crave experiences. These experiences be them shows, food, outdoor activities, live music, whatever, form an integral part of any travel. No longer am I willing to find out what I get there. I need to know, now! Give me these instant answers, and you have my booking.
Will that be All, Sir?- Ask Jeeves
As for Jeeves? Will we see him again? I don’t think so. After dropping the Jeeves over 10 years ago, ask.com remains in the shadows of our language changing search engine. No, but Jeeves junior and his pals? They’ll be everywhere, and they’ll be getting you the answers more often than you think.
Making that dinner reservation, ensuring the extra pillows are in your room before you check-in, booking a parking space, or even offering you an upgrade. 2020 is the year that Artificial Intelligence makes you more intelligent, without having anything implanted inside your head.
As for me? I’ll continue using Jeeves junior to equip myself with all the answers to get those experiences I crave, time after time, after time!
About The Author: James Harrison is a technology consultant with a focus on how hotels use technology in the Guest room. With a passion for both technology and the written word, he produces regular content on technology in the hospitality industry. Connect with him on LinkedIn for more insights. You can read many more of his articles on the HotelTCS Blog.